Thursday, July 22, 2010


Shall Joan d'Arc bless the flame, Gandhi the assassin's bullet, Dietrich Bonhoeffer the gallow's noose? Sebastian, saint of archers and no stranger to untimely demise, thinks they should. Sebastian blesses the very agency of his martyrdom... his first martyrdom. Unique among the venerated, he is the saint who was martyred twice.

Imagine being filled with arrows enough to make hedgehogs envious. Diocletian thought these sufficient steps to dispose of a Christ-loving Praetorian captain. He was mistaken. As the Legenda Aurea would have it, he commanded (Sebastian) to be led to the field and there to be bounden to a stake for to be shot at. And the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin. But Sebastian recovered and went on to mock the emperor in public places. This wouldn't do, so Diocletian had the man beaten to a pulp and tossed into a toilet to die. Apparently this method stuck, as Sebastian is next heard from as a ghost, telling his friends where to find his corpse. Whether he warned them to mind the smell is unrecorded by any of his hagiographers.

His image is proof against plague, popularized with altars in the Medieval era that staved Black Death. That's neat. What really strikes a chord, however, is Sebastian's patronage: he is the saint of his presumed executioners. He is the saint of archers.

I wear his image on a medallion, not because I'm catholic or out of belief that it will deflect projectiles-not physical ones, at least-but as a reminder to love our persecutors. Love them with laughter. Sebastian's harangue is an inspiration. Not the sort to attribute saintliness to humans, I appreciate those whose actions are dictated by love. It goes against all reason, but to do otherwise is folly.


fullet said...

Today was one of those days that I needed to read a post on loving them with laughter, it's been so refreshing.
"To mock the emperor in public places", I'll note down this one :)

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